Comings and Goings is a blog written by Theology, Worship and Education Director Charles B. "Chip" Hardwick as he travels throughout the church. God is on the move out and about in the world, working to redeem all things in Jesus Christ. As we join this mission, by the power of the Spirit we see God on the move. This blog contains glimpses of how Chip finds this to be true in his comings and goings.
You can follow Chip on twitter (@chiphardwick) or find him on Facebook (Chip Hardwick).
I am so grateful for the chance to return this past weekend to the church where I most recently served before heading to Louisville: Second Presbyterian Church of Bloomington, IL. Participating in the ordination of the Rev. Susan Tindall, a daughter of the church whom I got to know at seminary, gave me great joy. She is an outstanding pastor and it is exciting that she will now have the “Rev.” in front of her name to help others see that God has called her to serve in this extraordinary way.
One of the most exciting parts of an ordination service is when all of the ordained teaching (pastors) and ruling (lay) elders come forward to pray for and lay hands on the new ordinand (pictured to the left). Dozens of people came forward to pray for Susan while her father, the Rev. Rick Tindall, offered the prayer. The Spirit was palpably present as we lifted Susan’s life and ministry up to Christ.
Soon after the service Ben Keller, the presbytery colleague who took the picture, posted it to Facebook and wrote words that I have been thinking about ever since: “My prayer for you, Susan, is that if ever you feel alone in ministry, know that there are many people praying for you and your ministry. Know that we your colleagues in ministry are literally and figuratively behind you and surrounding you in our prayers and support." I hope that our prayers will always remind Susan of Christ's constant presence.
That’s a fantastic ordination prayer. It’s also fantastic prayer for any pastor. It’s a fantastic prayer at any time, but it’s particularly appropriate this month during Pastor Appreciation Month. Being a pastor is indeed a difficult and lonely job. Being back at Second Pres reminded me of how much I loved being a pastor of a local church (and this local church in particular), but it also reminded me that the challenges are substantial and real. Knowing that God answers the prayers of the people for their pastors is a true buoy in the rough seas of pastoral ministry.
During this Pastor Appreciation Month, I encourage you first to pray for your pastors—that God will give them warm hearts, discerning ears, smiling eyes, and thick skin, that the Spirit will give them true joy on those days when happiness is hard to find, that Jesus will shepherd them back to all the right places when the way forward is not clear.
Then, after you’ve prayed, send them a handwritten note in the mail to let them know that you are indeed praying for them, and that you appreciate their ministry. If you’ve been in any kind of conflict with them, this would be a great month to work toward reconciliation. If you’ve been quick to share a complaint in the past, go overboard with the affirmations this month. It will be cool water on their parched lips.
Rev. Tindall, and pastors everywhere, I ask God that you will always know how many people are praying for you.
The calling God has given us is immense: to join the Spirit’s work to transform the world through Christ’s redeeming love. It is daunting, especially when we consider how often churches churches and worshiping communities struggle to introduce new approaches or perspectives. Resources seem scarce compared to the enormity of the challenges facing us.
I was honored to be able to preach at Alma College’s Homecoming this past weekend. I graduated from Alma in 1988 and my commitment to the school skyrocketed last year when I returned to the central Michigan campus for my 25th Homecoming. I was so impressed to see how the college’s physical plant has been transformed, and how amazing the musical programs have become. (My fraternity house seems as sketchy as ever, but that is a story for another day.)
Earlier this week I had the chance to be a part of the Western National Leadership Training conference for the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Jackson Hole, WY. Around 100 church leaders, mostly from the area of the Rocky Mountains, came for a three-day get-together of networking, Bible study, keynotes, and workshops. The theme of the event was leadership in changing times, and my workshop explored what it means to do ministry in a post-modern, post-Christendom, post-Christian, and post-denominational culture.
Saturday was my first meeting as a member of the board of the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico (ESPR) in San Juan. I am grateful for the chance to participate in this ministry since it combines two of my loves: theological education and Spanish. The seminary is supported by six different denominations (the Presbyterian Church (USA), where I serve, is one of them) and has a newly elected president Dr. Doris Garcia Rivera. This was her first meeting as well.